Monday, June 20, 2016

BFF

This girl and I have been traveling around the world together for 15 years already, and I hope we never stop. This time I brought her to Venice as a surprise. So far it's been pretty perfect.

 


 
 
 

Drawing to Overcome Fear of Flying

  

For as much as I love traveling, I am a fearful little flyer. Last week on the Lufthansa regional jet from Munich to Trieste, I could feel myself freaking out during takeoff.

My involuntary reaction when I think the plane is about to drop out of the sky is to throw my arms up in panic and then grab onto the armrests for dear life. I'll white-knuckle it for a few seconds, get my shit together and release my grip, take a breath or two, and then sit on my hands or fidget with my hair or something until I feel like we're about to fall of the sky again and the whole flail-grip-regain control routine repeats itself.

My row companion was pretty nice about it, but I felt supremely awkward grabbing all over the place and wanted to get my behavior under control. So I took out my sketchbook and started a weird mix of nervous doodling and contour drawing of the inside of the plane. It worked quite well to manage my phobia, as I could concentrate on reproducing the lines and objects in front of me to distract myself, and then just let the pen go crazy in the moments of acute stress.

You can see the balding head of the guy in front of me, the window, the seatbelt/no smoking sign, the overhead bins, the curtain separating first class...and me intermittently losing it, translated into shapes and squiggles.

In all, a useful exercise I'm sure to repeat on future flights and in other moments of fear and uncertainty - of which we sadly have an abundance of these days. At least I have a funny drawing and a story to share as a result, a concrete transformation of negative emotions into something positive. 

What do you do to cope with fear?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Amici di Ballo

Tonight I went out with a group of new friends to a salsa, bachata, and kizomba party. It was in a town about 40 minutes away from Gorizia, and we caravaned there in the pouring rain. It was super fun to go to a party and have an adventure, even cooler to be doing so as part of a crew.

My friends - miei amici - are the people I've met through the dance school I found on my trip here back in February. It's called Arte Danza and they have a bit of everything - latin ballroom, zumba, pilates, breakdancing. It's been a lot of fun going to classes, and good exercise too.

Dancing salsa, bachata, and kizomba with a bunch of Italians has been an interesting experience. Most of them have learned at dance schools/courses and are firmly familiar with a set of patterns and partners. My observation (both from being a sometime student in said classes, as well as on the dancefloor tonight) is that this tends to cause weaker male leads and lots of female back-leading. Consequently, it can be hard to follow if you're not part of the in-crowd...but still a ton of fun. Also contributing to the challenge is the fact that most people here are learning Cuban-style salsa (as opposed to salsa de linea), which for me is way harder to follow and make flow.

In all, a very worthwhile experience. I imagine at the end of the month I'll feel a lot lighter on my feet, more in sync with my dancing friends, and more like I know what I'm doing.

And then, likely, I'll come back to my Bay Area salsa/bachata/kizomba scene and feel a little off! Hahaha...

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

My Airport Style

For the first time in my life I just spent 3 hours in an international airport and bought nothing. Why? Because I came prepared. 

Empty water bottle to refill at public fountains? Check. Snack of two boiled eggs and red grapes, carried in an empty cottage cheese container (recyclable and easy to leave behind)? Check. Books and mints brought from home? Yep. 

What else could a girl need?

Ah yes. Free wifi to complete the SFO experience!

And I'm off, headed to Italy and Slovenia for a much-needed month of decompressing and wine and good food. It's been a rough ride these days even though I am happy and feeling on the right path. Nothing like travel to make it all better. 

ETA: I've arrives in Munich airport after a smooth but long flight over the top of the world. With all that cash I saved by bringing my own everything at SFO, I was able to indulge in a lovely welcome meal here, essential to pass the 4-hour layover till my flight to Trieste.

 

I sat in a cute cafe and tried to get a cappuccino, alas the coffee machine was broken so I was "forced" to have a prosecco. My meal, not pictured, was a salad assortment where I chose marinated octopus, seaweed, and peppadews stuffed with goat cheese. It was fabulous, but now I need that coffee. For real! I can feel the jet lag creeping in already.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Where I Started and Where I am Now

Getting ready to cross the bridge-less Rio Lucite in Manica Province, Mozambique. 2005.

I started this blog in 2005 while living in Austin, Texas. I was about to move to Mozambique to work as a freelance consultant with some friends I'd met while in business school in Brazil. (There's a lot of geography in my life story!)

Initially my blog was a way for me to keep in touch with family in friends while in Africa, but it soon became much more. I met hundreds of people through my writing, many of whom were also moving to Mozambique and looking for support, many of whom became friends.

Over the years I chronicled my work in international development, my growing passion for making jewelry, my marriage in 2008, our move to California in late 2009, my decision to apply to art school and change careers, my experience starting my own business, and now the most recent chapter: my life as a single person, with many exciting unknowns, lots of travel, and a heart full of love to share with the world.

Contemplating what's next while on the ferry from Isla Mujeres to Cancún, Mexico. 2016.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Spending in Check

Before traveling to Italy earlier this year, I took the steps any savvy traveler does and cleaned out my wallet. I removed all crap I usually carry around (multiple cards, memberships, coupons) and pared it down to one main credit card (with no foreign transaction fee), a backup credit card, and a debit card.

I distinctly remember removing my business credit card and placing it somewhere "safe" in our house, thinking, "I'm going on vacation and have zero intention of doing anything professional, so I won't need this baby for sure," and then putting the card in a drawer or something. Upon returning from that trip, I scoured all my usual hiding spots to no avail. I couldn't find my card anywhere.

Part of me thought I should call the bank and report it lost, but the task of updating all my saved payment info and linked accounts seemed too daunting at the time. I was fairly certain I'd find it, and there had been no strange charges that might indicate the card was in someone else's hands, so I just let it be. 

That was about three months ago, and my business credit card still hasn't turned up and I still haven't requested a replacement. Why? It's been the absolute best thing ever to reign in my spending. The card is still connected to my most essential vendor sites, so I know I can purchase jewelry supplies if I need to. But it's not available in-hand for impulse buys, and the effect has been astounding.

My average monthly spending used to be in the thousands, and I would frequently carry over a balance (and pay interest, booooo). The past three months my balance has been zero, zero, and $16.85. Granted I have a good inventory in place and lots of extra supplies lying around...but it's incentive to use what I have and only buy that which is really, truly necessary - using cash.

I won, baby!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

On Movement

A quick poem I wrote in a parking lot after class at Hipline, about a month ago:

Dancing feels like freedom,
I can move any way I want.
My decisions,
my body.
Feeling grounded for the first time in ages.

In leaving I am growing roots,
solid,
to secure my ankles and support my feet
and allow my heart to explore from this base.

Keep moving,
clear the mind.
Don't ignore the body's message.
There is no need to fear the outcome
when following the gut-compass.

Spring sunset as seen from my studio in Point Richmond, with Mt. Tamalpais in the background.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Mexico with my BFF

My best friend Angel and I took a girls' trip to Playa del Carmen a few weeks ago and it was pure magic. Here are some highlights:


Long story short, Angel and I ended up going to one of those timeshare presentations where in exchange for sitting through a sales pitch you are offered a series of "thank you gifts". We also had to pretend to be a couple, which added a very amusing dimension to the experience (only couples with both members present could qualify for the bonus stuff). Lemme tell you, those timeshare people have mastered the art of not taking no for an answer, but we were strong in our refusal to spend thousands of dollars to get the deal of our lives. After saying no to about eighteen different people and their managers, we were finally out of there. Our compensation? Ferry tickets to Isla Mujeres, a golf cart rental on the island, a bottle of tequila, and a major discount on a tour of Chichén Itzá the next day. 


The ocean at Isla Mujeres was unbelievable. I was fascinated by the distinct color lines in the water. What causes that? A sudden depth change? 


Speaking of water, check out this cool outdoor chandelier we spotted at a bar. It is made of lightbulbs filled with water and was suspended from a big palm tree. Totally up my alley, especially because so much of the art I'm making these days is inspired by chandeliers.

A quiet, contemplative moment on the ferry heading back to Cancun. I distinctly remember this moment. I was starting to feel like myself again after many months in a tough emotional state. Something about sun and sand and saltwater cures everything, not to mention adventures with your best friend.


On our second day we took a bus tour to Chichén Itzá, and along the way stopped at a Mayan village to have lunch and swim in a cenote. The Yucatán peninsula is made of karst limestone and is full of sinkholes, caves, and underground lakes and rivers. Swimming in this cenote was just what my body and soul needed. I was one of the first people in the water and had the luxury of swimming around in peace. Being in the fresh water under that beam of sunlight was transformative.


Here we are dying of heat at Chichén Itzá. Back in college I took a class called Mesoamerican Art History and never imagined that I'd actually get to visit the ruins in person one day. We had a fabulous tour guide who was half Maya, and the information he gave us really enriched the experience. We learned about the absolute genius astronomical and mathematical understanding the Maya had, how they developed the concept of zero, had complex hieroglyphics, made paper, recorded information, had a calendar, understood everything about the celestial bodies and seasons. So sad that most of that knowledge has been lost over time...


This wall of carved stone skulls was pretty impressive. Blood and ritual death were major themes in a lot of the temple imagery. I was also intrigued by the Maya's skull deformation practices.


After Chichén Itzá we visited a colonial town called Valladolid. This church in the center plaza was built by the Spanish using many stones from Maya ruins. You can even spot some hieroglyphics on some of the pieces. What a complex, complicated history this region has...


I'm always a sucker for old tiles...these were in the center of Valladolid. Love the colors and pattern, and my running shoes blended right in. 


After visiting the ruins, we finally went out salsa dancing in Playa del Carmen. It was a most memorable night. I danced my heart out on the floor, and even went up on stage for a no-fear YOLO solo with the Cuban band. This is who I am. This is who I want to be, always. Alive, spontaneous, and fun. A free, adventurous spirit. So good to be back to my roots.


I love these cute little birds and the rich colors of the algae and water. Sadly it was a short trip to Mexico, but so refreshing and totally worth it. I am dying to go back. I left a piece of my heart in Playa del Carmen for sure.